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UNLV suspends fraternity after boxing death

Updated December 2, 2021 - 12:17 pm

UNLV’s Kappa Sigma fraternity was suspended Wednesday as school officials launched an investigation into a charity boxing match where a 20-year-old student collapsed and later died, according to a statement from the university.

Junior Nathan Valencia was part of the main event on the seven-fight card Nov. 19 at Sahara Event Center.

“Our hearts ache for Mr. Valencia’s family, friends, and loved ones,” UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield said in the statement. “We take our responsibility to review this tragic incident and the events leading up to it very seriously, and we are doing so both thoroughly and fairly to ensure something like this never happens again.”

The fraternity’s annual Fight Night was a fundraiser for Center Ring Boxing, a Las Vegas gym for troubled youth. Shortly after the bout, friends said Valencia collapsed.

Valencia died four days later at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center from blunt head trauma sustained during the fight, according to the Clark County coroner’s office, which ruled his death a homicide.

UNLV officials said they were internally investigating the fight and planned to cooperate fully with other independent reviews being conducted.

Kappa Sigma is expected to halt all activities as a result of the suspension.

The Kappa Sigma Fraternity parent organization, which has more than 300 chapters in the U.S. and Canada, a;sp suspended operations of UNLV’s chapter on Monday, it said in a statement Thursday to the Review-Journal.

The international headquarters is currently conducting a review of whether UNLV’s chapter followed Kappa Sigma’s internal policies and standards of conduct, according to the statement.

“Kappa Sigma expects all of our chapters to conform with all applicable state and local laws,” it said.

The statement said the parent organization and UNLV chapter won’t be providing further comment at this time.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission’s chairman said Tuesday that the panel would investigate “every aspect” of the match, including whether there were any paramedics on standby at the event, whether there was a licensed referee, whether the fighters were properly matched and whether any participants were under the influence of mind-altering substances.

According to state law, the athletic commission can take disciplinary action against anyone involved with unarmed combat in the state, regardless of licensing.

Valencia’s family, speaking through attorneys Nicholas Lasso and Ryan Zimmer, said they welcome an investigation. The family said other fighters have been hospitalized after the annual match and the referee on Nov. 19 was unlicensed and seen drinking before the fight.

“We will leave no stone unturned to determine how a 20 year old ended up in a school-sanctioned amateur fight that cost him his life,” the family wrote in a statement last week.

Joshua Chavez, a senior who participated in the fight representing another fraternity on campus, said the students provided a welcoming environment and tried to prioritize the fighters’ safety. He said Saturday that he hopes the fraternity would not face any repercussions.

Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Melody Rose said Wednesday evening that she was communicating with the Board of Regents and planned to assist authorities in their investigations.

“On behalf of the entire higher education community in Nevada, I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of UNLV student Nathan Valencia,” the statement read. “Let there be no doubt that I am committed to ensuring that a full and independent investigation into all the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter is promptly conducted and that accountability for this tragedy is prioritized. I am in regular communication with Board of Regents Chair Pro Tempore Carol Del Carlo, and I have directed my staff to assist with any local, state, or federal government agency that has jurisdiction over this matter.”

Meanwhile, Las Vegas police announced earlier this week that they would not pursue criminal charges in Valencia’s death.

“Although Mr. Valencia’s death is tragic, the circumstances surrounding his death are not criminal and no charges will be filed,” the Metropolitan Police Department wrote in a statement.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Julie Wootton-Greener contributed to this report.

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